I just wrote this piece after one of my friends asked me about the difference between animate and inanimate objects, with reference to the topic Need / In need of from the Gmatclub's Ultimate GMAT Grammar
Need / In Need Of Animate VS inanimate objects : Note Animate objects are those that can perform the given actions on their own. Generally, we consider all objects that have life and movement to be animate objects. However, the definition is not true in certain cases (exceptions as we call them). In such cases, the object follows all the criteria that makes it animate, but the action cannot be performed by the object. The action must be done by someone else. Here we shall use the grammar rules of inanimate objects. Inanimate objects are not able to perform actions on their own. Generally we consider all objects that do not have life and/or movement, to be inanimate objects. However, the definition is not true in certain cases (exceptions as we call them). In such cases, the object follows all the criteria that makes it inanimate, but the action can be performed by the object itself. No external entity is needed to do the action for it. Here we shall use the grammar rules of animate objects. Usually, when the subject of a sentence is an animate object, the verb need is followed by an infinitive verb
. – These use “need”, along with the infinitive verb ( ‘to’ + verb = infinitive form of verb; can be remembered by saying that we don’t know whether the verb action will actually take place or not, but is required to occur. Hence, its time frame is infinite, or better say undefined.)
Hector needs to get (to + verb)
We need to leave (to + verb)
My dog needs to learn (to + verb)
new tricks. Usually, when the subject of a sentence is an inanimate object, the verb need is followed by either a gerund (or “ing” verb), or the verb to be followed by the past participle of the action verb
The grass needs cutting (-ing form of verb)
. OR The grass needs to be cut
The motorcycle needs repairing (-ing form of verb)
. OR The motorcycle needs to be repaired
The guest list needs writing (-ing form of verb)
. OR The guest list needs to be written
. Be aware that there are some exceptions to these rules. Sometimes, animate objects follow the second rule
My dog needs to be fed
. (by someone else) – action cannot be done by animate object ‘dog’ on its own. Thus it becomes inanimate in consideration.
The baby needs burping (-ing form of verb)
. OR The baby needs to be burped
. Sometimes, inanimate objects follow the first rule.
The buzzer needs to ring
before we can leave class.(buzzer is set… it can ring by itself, thus making it animate in consideration… If the statement had the action of ‘setting’ the buzzer, then we would have said – "the buzzer needs to be set before it can ring" – which follows the rule for inanimate object perfectly.)
The grass needs to grow
more before I can cut it. The expression in need of can be used in some cases in place of using the verb need. However, because the word need is not a verb in the phrase in need of, it must be preceded by the verb 'be'.[The verb “be” can take up any of the forms as – is, was, were, am, etc…]
Darren is in need of a haircut. (Darren needs a haircut.)
The car was in need of new tires. (The car needed new tires.)
The girls were in need of prom dresses. (The girls needed prom dresses.)
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GmatPrep1 [10/09/2012] : 650 (Q42;V38) - need to make lesser silly mistakes.
MGMAT 1 [11/09/2012] : 640 (Q44;V34) - need to improve quant pacing and overcome verbal fatigue.